The Flashback Series by Terri L. Powers
Good cop skills and a freaky ability to see into the past – the recipe for a great partnership.
Visitors are dying to get out of the Emerald City and rebellious Seattle detective, Nate Cliffton, must team again with his time-traveling friend John Carpenter, to face an elusive serial killer who targets tourists.
John sees only the killer’s profile during one flashback, so Nate resorts to the old-fashioned way of catching criminals, but he keeps coming up short. Pushing John to try again, Nate faces one of his biggest fears–having a friend in danger because of his actions. Throw in the complications of a three-pronged government response, a fresh hook-up, and new partner and Nate’s tapped out.
For John it’s a matter of staying alive. For Nate it’s hunting down a murderer before another out-of-towner is found floating in Puget Sound.
A serial killer is loose in the city of Seattle stalking women in the downtown area near Elliott Bay. Detective Nate Cliffton is assigned to the Monroe case, tagged with that name by the newspapers because the victims all look like 1950’s pin-up models. Nate is relentless in his hunt for this smart killer who keeps eluding police to fulfill his bloodlust.
Meanwhile, John Carpenter’s peaceful life is changed forever following a terrible car accident. Awakening from a coma, John now has an ability to see events from the past – to flashback. During one such flashback into the past, John sees a distinctive tattoo when he witnesses a murder in an alleyway near Pike Place Market. Who can he trust? He certainly doesn’t want to involve his family, so he turns to Nate. Nate is skeptical of John’s newly acquired ability at first. Will the detective believe him, or will John become the number one suspect in the investigation into the brutal crime?
When John sees the tattoo for a second time in another flashback, Nate must learn to use the past to alter the future. Another woman will die if the killer is not stopped. The clock is ticking. John must learn to accept his gift, and then learn to use it as he becomes mixed up in the hunt for a serial killer. Will John Carpenter end up a hero, or will he end up dead?
Flashback To Baker Lake – Book 3 in the Flashback series coming Winter 2014. Read an excerpt, below:
Near Seattle, Washington
This moment in time, these precious few hours, a brief instant full of exquisite anticipation made more poignant by the days and days of planning and risk assessment are so quickly fleeting. Like sands of time, the hour trickles down to its final grains.
Lying near the boy, sheets tangled around my legs, I admire the smooth, sun-kissed skin of his shoulder; dipping to touch my nose against his flesh, inhaling the aroma of sweat and youth—a heady mixture that I never tire of. I feel alive.
The slender blonde is special. For a few hours we are lovers. I caress the boy’s left shoulder, tracing a line down his back, sliding my hand over his buttocks, then back toward his right shoulder, following the curve in the small of his back, then down his right arm. I outline the purple and red marks that are beginning to show under the restraints at his wrists. My fingers continue to find new places they haven’t been, watching the boy’s eyelashes flutter against his cheeks, waiting. Cat and mouse. I know he’s just pretending. I dip close and draw a circle on the tip of his ear lobe with my tongue. He jerks away.
A tight feeling in my stomach, an electric charge that jolts through my core, an arousal in my groin—naughty and exciting, so good because what I’m doing is so bad.
“It will be easier this time, Tommy. You’ll see,” I repeat the phrase I’ve been using since the night began. Leaning on my side, I slip on another condom, smearing lubrication on the tip. I balance over the spread-eagle youth—enter, thrust, Oh God—white lights explode in the brain as the boy’s tightness swallows me, thrusting harder, finding my rhythm; his sobs only intensify the feeling. Too soon it’s over and I collapse.
My breathing steadies. I rise and paddle barefoot to the bathroom, flushing the condom down the toilet and stepping into the shower. Fifteen minutes later I’m dressed and standing by the bed where the boy lies on sheets stained with proof he’s no longer a virgin, hips raised, supported by two plump pillows placed under his mid-section, ankles secured like his wrists.
“You were delicious.”
I ruffle the tousled hair before turning to leave. Down the stairway, out the front door of the hideaway in the forest, taking the wooden steps to the yard three at a time, and striding to the black Cadillac barely seen under the leafy canopy where timid moonlight ventures thinly. I climb in. The car slowly backs around and rolls up the driveway to the quiet road where it turns in the direction of Cascade Highway, a lone vehicle on a three-hour trip home.
“The police radio mentioned a tie-up near town that may cause a delay.” The driver informs me.
“Well, if that don’t white wash the chickens. Do the best you can.”
“A pleasant evening, Sir?” the driver’s eyes catch mine in the rearview mirror.
“It was, Joey. Thank you.”
August 1 – 8:00 a.m.
129 Days Before the Wedding
“John? What team lost Super Bowl fourteen?”
Susan is lying in bed with her knees up, a crossword propped across them, and three pillows behind her back, chewing on the end of the pencil she holds in her left hand, a slight frown on her lovely face, her hair a mussed halo.
John is lying on his stomach, the covers up to his shoulders, and one pillow over his head as if he is Punxsutawney Phil burrowing to avoid his shadow.
“You must know this; you watch football every waking hour in the winter and I can’t finish my puzzle without the answer.” She pokes him.
“I know the Seahawks won Super Bowl forty-eight. I wasn’t even born for fourteen; Google it.”
“I can’t Google it; that would be cheating.”
John comes out from under the pillow, his dark-brown hair sticking up in all directions.
“Well someone put a lot of time and effort into gathering all of that information and putting it into a search engine so that you could find it, so I think you should put it to good use. Don’t think of it as cheating, think of it as efficient. Now let me sleep.”
“You can’t honey, remember we are meeting with the caterers at ten. We have to go over menus for the reception and come to some kind of agreement – somewhere between hot dogs and beer, and prime rib and champagne.”
“I like hot dogs and beer.” John is teasing her. His composure covers the fact that he’s really a happy, excited, romantic fool who can’t wait to step down the aisle.
“I know sweetie, so do I, but I’m not spilling mustard on the front of a gown I just paid four installments for.”
The planning has been going on for nine months, right after John asked Susan’s father for her hand. This part of the process is nothing compared to sitting across from Steven at the Bishop home. That was intense. Susan had left them alone in the study to talk and get to know one another without her hovering. After chatting about the weather and the Seahawks chances, John stammered, Mr. Bishop. I want to ask you for your blessing to marry your daughter. The silence after this outburst seemed to stretch on for hours. Finally Steven spared him any more embarrassment by giving his well wishes and quieting John’s apologies for the outburst by holding his hand up and saying, Sometimes we say what we plan to say with our brain, and sometimes our heart takes over and says what it must, and the brain has to take a back seat. John will never forget that statement because it seemed so appropriate at the time.
Today John can see the light at the end of the wedding planning tunnel. Susan asked John’s sister, Brandy, to be her maid of honor. John is having his friend, Nate Cliffton, stand up with him. The wedding is scheduled for mid-December so John’s goal is to stay out of Susan’s way, help where he can, say yes as much as possible, and smile. Always smile.
“Hey, maybe we could visit the site of Super Bowl XIV and you could flashback to see the player’s uniforms.”
Susan’s referring to the little ability John picked up while lying in a hospital in a coma a couple of years back after a near-fatal car crash. Now he can slip into the past. Not interact with it, merely watch. Yesterday, the today of the past. It’s gotten him into a little trouble, but he’s been a hero as well.
“Oh, that sounds like a productive use of our weekend.” He rolls over and throws his arm over Susan’s mid-section, covering the puzzle and pulling her towards him. “How about instead of solving a crossword puzzle, we play doctor?”
Susan giggles. “John, what about the caterers?”
“We’ve got time for one exam, Nurse Bishop,” and he nuzzles the side of her neck.
Nate Cliffton’s sitting at his desk, barely hiding the fact that he’s waiting. Waiting for Detective Pete Cavanaugh who usually arrived at this time with a cappuccino in one hand and a bag of biscotti in the other, all for Nate—one of the things that endears the detective to him. Nate and Pete have been partners for a little over a year, since the Puget Sound murders. And even though Nate’s had to give up being the lone wolf, Pete’s charm and the biscotti treat have won him over.
Nate again picks up yesterday’s paper to continue the crossword puzzle he’s doing, trying to think of a six-letter word for brusque. Captain Bishop brings him to attention by slamming his fist on his desk. Nate jumps in his chair.
“Not doing anything I see, I want you to work on case out of GACS. A child abduction gone wrong. It’s a murder case now.”
Nate recovers his composure. “GACS taking lead?” GACS stands for the Gender and Age Crimes section that is responsible for the sexual assault and child abuse unit. The unit investigates sex crimes and child kidnappings.
“No, I want you on it. They don’t usually handle homicide. But you’ll be working with their man, Sergeant Quentin Parks. Think of it as community—they need our help, we’re helping family.”
Nate nods and asks, “Hey Captain, tell me something. Are you in the running for Chief? I’m just curious cuz I heard something about it. Good luck to you if you are.”
“Don’t start brown-nosing now, you might mess up your coiffure,” Bishop winks and walks away leaving Nate to contact the guy in GACS.
“Parks.” A deep growl on the other end of the call. Nate pictures a massive ex-defenseman with tattoos on his knuckles and a perpetual scowl. If Nate were a more timid soul he may have been tempted to end the call before it began.
“Sergeant Parks, this is Detective Nate Cliffton with Homicide. I was asked to call you about a case. Can we get together today to go over the details of the investigation?
“That is really considerate of you Detective. I am in need of someone who will bring me my coffee, take my clothes to the dry cleaners, and fetch the paper for me. When can you begin?”
The sarcasm throws Nate off his guard. It takes him a second to recover. “Well, you can begin by not being such a wiseass and I’ll begin by coming to your office at one. How is that for a start?”
“Look, how about if I just update you with emails as the investigation goes along and you report to your boss that we are working together and everyone will be happy.”
The guy doesn’t seem to want his help, but Nate charges forward. “One o’clock it is then.”
“I can hardly wait.”
Nate clicks his cell phone off and shakes his head. He didn’t like working with other units or agencies. Okay, as a rule I don’t like working with others, usually. Nate’s been dating a guy from the U.S. Coast Guard so his rule can be broken.
Nate looks up as Detective Pete Cavanaugh walks up to their grouping of desks. Pete has Nate’s cappuccino and biscotti, his own morning beverage, a newspaper, some file folders, and a novel with a bookmark sticking out of the end of it balanced in his two hands.
“Good day.” The Welsh vowels make the two words sound like four. Pete sits down to face him at the desk opposite. “Morning paper,” he raises his eyebrows and holds today’s paper across the two desk tops for Nate’s perusal. His accent softens the words and makes it sound as if he’s singing a little ditty. Nate loves the way words sound when they come out of Pete’s mouth, but he’ll never let on to the cocky Englishman because that would give him too much leverage.
“Cool,” Nate smiles and grabs for the paper as he settles in with his coffee and baked treat. “By the way, we’ve got a case.”
“Yep. Kidnapping first. Then it segued into murder.”
“The Captain wants us to take the lead, work with GACS. We have a meeting with Sergeant Quentin Parks at one o’clock. Hopefully the asshole keeps the appointment.”
“Are you making friends and influencing people already this morning.” The innocent expression on Pete’s face belies the sarcastic question.
“It’s my specialty,” Nate smirks.
Nate and Pete arrive at the front desk in GACS and ask for Sergeant Parks.
“Won’t you have a seat, I’ll let him know you are here,” the receptionist, a uniform officer, told them.
“We can just find him if you point us in the right direction.” Nate bristles at having to wait.
The bespeckled redhead apologizes, but insists they wait. Nate looks pointedly at the clock above her head and back down at her, before producing a model-perfect smile and sitting down. At one-twenty Nate turns to Pete, “Let’s go. I don’t really want—”
“Detectives Cliffton and Cavanaugh?” The gravelly voice booms around the waiting area, seeming to bounce off the walls and furniture. Nate jumps. He turns to face the man and notices two things. The first is the glint of satisfaction in the man’s eyes that he got a rise out of Nate, and the second, Parks is only five-six with a willowy build. Where does that voice come from? Nate holds out his hand by way of introduction and nods. “This is my partner Detective Cavanaugh.”
“Pleased to meet you sir.” Pete murmurs.
“Wales?” Parks asks, ignoring Nate’s hand and putting his hand out to Pete.
“Why yes, Cardiff to be exact.” Pete shakes the proffered hand.
“I studied there when I was in college. I’ll never forget the dialect. Follow me.”
Nate puts his hand down, allowing Pete to precede him as they follow Parks to his desk in the right angle wing of the room.
“Sit down, sit down,” Parks indicates the chairs facing his desk. “You are here to help me on the child abduction cases.”
“Cases?” Nate hesitates. “It was my understanding this was a recent abduction that resulted in murder and we were to take the lead.”
“Tommy Hull is the boy who was found dead. The FBI are interested, of course, they are looking into sex trafficking of minors, transporting them across borders. I’m very interested because this is the eighth boy that we know of to disappear from this northern area in the past few years.
“Any DNA evidence collected?” Pete asks.
“Nothing substantial; some samples collected where the body was dumped, but nothing that we can use to find the killer. We did get a match with another one of our case on the tire imprints found at the scene, but there is nothing unique about the tire—manufactured here in the United States, sold by dealers nationwide, one hundred and twenty dealers and repair shops here in Seattle proper.”
“And you were treating the murdered boy as one of a series of abductions because of the tire mold. Where’s Tommy’s body?” Nate looks down at a blonde-haired boy with big brown eyes and an impish smile. He looks to be around eight or nine, the face still soft and round with youth.
“It went to King County. I’ve got the report here; cause of death was drug overdose.”
“And you’re sure it’s not just an accident?”
“I’ll send you a copy of the file on the Hull boy. Preliminary autopsy indicates there were ligature marks around the ankles and wrists and he was sexually assaulted, nothing consensual about those wounds. And there’s nothing accidental about having too much chloral hydrate in his system. Like it or not boys, I’m very much involved.”
Mumford Edward Hurlburton III, Eddie to his constituents, at fifty-one is the youngest in the field of Republican candidates considering the run for Presidency. Currently a U.S. Congressman, he stands for baseball, apple pie, and the American way of life. Eddie’s good looks and forward-thinking mind—using social media to steer voters toward his issues, skills that others in his party lack—will propel him to the front. With chemically-enhanced brown hair, crinkles at the outer corners of his brown eyes, trim body, and six-five frame, he can pass for almost half his age. And his secret weapon, a smile that will brighten any billboard. Married to Molly for thirty years, with two daughters, Lynette, 14, and Matilda, 8, he is an exemplary example of what America would look like if everyone went to church, believed in the Lord, and followed the Hurlburton’s example of Christian living. Amen brothers and sisters.
Molly is vying for the White House, ever since her husband was an up and coming attorney with powerful friends. She dresses the part and delivers her lines as well as any Oscar winner in Hollywood. Striking her given name, Mildred—a name that puts lunch lady shoes and a hairnet in the hearts and minds of voters—taking a name more benefitting a respectful First Lady. “Mildred is such a spinster schoolmarm’s name.” She says whenever anyone forgets and calls her by her given name. “Please call me Molly.” Both girls were groomed for the spotlight from an early age, either as contestants in beauty contests, or as members of Science Olympiad and school forensics clubs. They each know two languages—Lynette, Spanish and French; Matilda, German and Japanese—and both are in ballet, swimming, creative writing, and horseback riding.
Today Eddie is headed to the offices of one of his biggest financial backers, Desmond Gravosso. He knows today’s meeting could turn the tide in the direction that is needed for his upward climb if he is willing to back the deal that Gravosso wants. It would mean bending a little and pushing some things aside.
“Sir, Mr. Gravosso’s son, Tristano, is playing soccer now and his team won the division trophy this past weekend.” Evan Powell, campaign manager/aide/right-hand man/friend briefs Eddie.
“Tristano, huh, pretty good soccer player?
“Got the winning goal; he was voted team captain second year in a row.”
“Thank you, Evan, I’ll remember that.”
As they pull up in front of the Gravosso office building, Eddie asks Evan “Is there a proposal on the table to help Gravosso with his project that won’t make it look like I caved into greed?”
“There is a way to get around it if we piggyback the proposal onto the Republican economic bill that is going through the House right now. Make it look like it would be good for sustainability a way to build for the future.”
“Well, if that don’t whitewash the chickens. I like it, let’s go with that. Make sure I’m meeting with the Representative supporting the bill before the week is up.”